Sunday, November 28, 2010

Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip

Last night, our kitchen sink exploded.

I was home slicing the ends off some brussels sprouts buds for roasting, and I heard a deep, worrisome gurgling coming from the drain to my left. I glanced over at the sink, but since the overhead light in our kitchen had blown a few days before, I couldn't see anything.

When I placed the brussels sprouts on the oven rack, I caught a glimpse of our sink, half full of murky swampwater, full of unknown organic debris.

A few minutes later, another gurgle emptied the sink, leaving only black vegetative remnants in its wake.

"What's the super's #? Kitchen sink is acting up and I'll have to call if it explodes," I txted my roommate, then noting, "I should have it on hand anyway."

He immediately replied, "I'll be home in 5 minutes."

When he got home, he took one look at our sullied sink and said, "Oh my God that's disgusting. I don't want to look at this right now." He then ran the faucet to rinse it out as we chatted about the apartment, his day, and my plans later, which inspired me to go shower and start getting ready.

While curling my hair in the bathroom mirror, wrapped in a purple towel, I heard my roommate exclaim from the kitchen, "Oh my God! What is that?!"

The sound of pouring water. My roommate on the phone with our landlord. And a milky white overflow cascading down our cabinets and creeping across the tile floor and towards the living room, while we watched in horror. After a quick change, I threw my purple bath towel down to stop the flow from advancing any further.

A flurry of activity ensued, with the arrival of our super and some workers from an upstairs apartment they'd been renovating. They brought buckets and mops and sponges and began the cleanup, pausing to explain, "It's paint."

Apparently they'd been rising out some brushes in other apartment's sink and, because all the pipes are interconnected, had created some stoppage that sent the water into our apartment.

As they bailed the paintwater out of our sink with my roommate's plastic Yankees-branded drinking glasses, revealing the dirty bowls and forks that had become submerged in a milky bath, I started to freak out.

"Oh my God my pot...." I gasped.

"Don't worry, it's just paint. It'll wash off," the workers assured me.

"Oh....God..." I moaned, witnessing the possible destruction of the only kitchen supplies I'd allowed myself to bring to this new apartment, having left the rest in storage.

I stood there while one worker screwed new bulbs into the ceiling light, standing on an overturned bucket, and another worker stacked the paint-soaked cups, having relieved the sink of its flood.

"Don't worry..." they said, but I was increasingly inconsolable. I only had three plates and three bowls, and two of each had been drowned in an onslaught of watered-down paint. And now I was watching that paint dry - quickly - in little pools at the bottom of my bowls, along the rim of my one and only pot, and in crusted clumps along the tines of my forks.

I sprang into action. They tried to stop me, but I snatched all the dishes off the counter and out of the empty sink.

"Just let me do this. I have to get to it before the paint dries!" I cried out on my way to the bathroom sink.

I managed to rinse the majority of the paint off the majority of our dishes by the time I had to leave, abandoning my roommate with the workers as they tried to snake the drain and free the blockage that had caused the backup. Crisis had been averted, but when I returned home later last night, the kitchen was still in disarray, streaks of paint still discoloring the pot and knife handles. My towel, still wet, sat curled up in a ball at bathtub's bottom.

I've tried hard to reduce my attachment to material possessions, to let go, and to satisfy only my basic needs. But as nice as this new apartment is, sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes something happens somewhere else, and it sends a flood into your life. And you can clear the drain, mop the floor and bail yourself out, but there's no telling when you'll hear that telltale gurgle again, from the depths of the kitchen sink, or the shower drain, or the toilet, or the stove, or the heat pipe next to your bed. In my room, the heatpipe already rattles and bubbles all night long, and every morning, shatteringly loud next to my sleeping head.

Tonight I scrubbed the dishes again with scouring pad, removing nearly every trace of last night's deluge.

But I can't forget what was there.

And I know that it might bubble up again.

All I can do is keep calm and carry on.

Related post: Running on Empty

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